Magnolia Warbler

Setophaga magnolia

  • Version: 2.0 — Published April 23, 2010
  • Erica H. Dunn and George A. Hall

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Figure 1. Distribution of the Magnolia Warbler.
Adult male Magnolia Warbler, breeding plumage, Huntsville, ON, June.

Note bold head pattern with gray crown, dark auriculars and white supercilium. The following link is to this contributor's Flickr stream or website., Jun 17, 2009; photographer Glenn Bartley

The Magnolia Warbler, a boreal forest breeder, has conspicuous black and yellow markings and a distinctive tail pattern, making it one of North America's more recognized wood-warblers. Alexander Wilson collected the first specimen of this species in 1810 from a magnolia tree in Mississippi and gave it the inappropriate specific name magnolia, but his English name for the species was Black-and-yellow Warbler.

The Magnolia Warbler nests alongside the congeneric Black-throated Green (S. virens), Blackburnian (S. fusca), and Yellow-rumped (S. coronata) warblers, but unlike the first two of these, the Magnolia Warbler is a bird of dense young growth. It usually nests in conifers – spruce (Picea spp.) in northern parts of the range and eastern hemlock (Tsuga canadensis) in the south. Nests are seldom found more than 5 meters above ground. This is an active species, with males vigorously chasing other males and females, even during migration.

Despite its numerical abundance and conspicuous behavior, the Magnolia Warbler has been little studied, and many aspects of its breeding biology remain poorly known. Nests are difficult to find in the dense breeding habitat this species favors, and only a few have been watched systematically, providing little information on nesting success and productivity. Essentially nothing is known about the critical period between fledging and the first autumn migration. Magnolia Warbler populations presently appear to be stable across most of the range, and the species is not considered a conservation priority (Partners in Flight 2005).

Recommended Citation

Dunn, E. H. and G. A. Hall (2010). Magnolia Warbler (Setophaga magnolia), version 2.0. In The Birds of North America (A. F. Poole, Editor). Cornell Lab of Ornithology, Ithaca, NY, USA.